Egypt’s Minister of the Environment Yasmine Fouad met on Sunday with Regional Director of the UNESCO Cairo Office, Nuria Sanz, to discuss bilateral cooperation in the field of preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the local population and protecting nature.
During the meeting, Fouad praised the extended cooperation with UNESCO in declaring World Natural Heritage Sites, such as St. Catherine and Wadi El Hitan Reserve in Fayoum, expressing her aspiration for the continuation of this cooperation and declaring more sites such as Jabal Qatrani in Fayoum.
The UNESCO official presented several programs that the organization is working on in Egypt, including the biosphere reserves program, which aims to preserve wildlife and protected areas.
For her part, the Minister of Environment confirmed that Egypt, during the past two years, has developed its management method for natural reserves, and focused on integrating the local communities in managing and preserving these areas, especially the tribes, in addition to raising awareness among citizens of the importance of reserves and preserving them and enjoying the practice of many ecotourism activities there.
Moreover, Fouad pointed out that Egypt launched the first national campaign to promote natural reserves and eco-tourism, ECO EGYPT, which focuses on the experiences and adventures offered by the reserves, and opportunities to learn about the cultures, customs and heritage of the local population, and to provide job opportunities for the people of the reserves in their management, guided by the experience of training women in the Wadi El-Gemal reserve, on the skills of handicrafts, and the opportunity for men as guards of the reserve.
The Minister of Environment added that the ministry, in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism, was interested in encouraging the establishment of eco-tourism resorts and working to issue licenses for them to provide a unique eco-tourism experience and benefit from the cultural and environmental heritage of local communities in partnership with national banks and the private sector.
She further explained that the Eco Egypt campaign launches every 6 months a different topic to work on, so it started with the protection of marine areas, and is currently focusing on preserving the cultural heritage of the tribes and residents of natural reserves in Sharm El-Sheikh and encouraging benefiting from those residents in the city’s hotels.
The two sides discussed the possibility of cooperation in supporting more integration of local communities in the management of nature reserves, and cooperation through the eighth phase program of the Global Environment Facility in preserving the natural and cultural heritage in the oases region and involving the private sector in implementing activities in this field, and further integration to the local population.
Fouad invited the Director of the UNESCO Office in Cairo to visit nature reserves in Egypt and experience a unique experience of natural and cultural diversity. She also welcomed the idea of merging the celebration of Cultural Diversity Day and the Day of Biological Diversity on 21 and 22 May as two sides of the same coin and directly affecting local communities.